Rare Engines at Portland Show

The 2016 Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show was filled with rare and unusual engines.

| May 2017

  • Dave Kyler with his 1903 9 hp Foos Special Electric engine and generator. “I have found a little literature on this engine,” he says. “The colors and striping are close to original.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Portland show provided the first opportunity for Keith Kinney, Evansville, Ind., to put his hands on this new addition to his engine collection. The 7 hp Thermoil Model U was built by Hercules and sold by Sears. The Cummins diesel (with Cummins injector) engine was built in about 1922. The engine is complete, including the factory original cart and clutch pulley. Of several thousand built, perhaps 200 survive.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Royster brothers – Mike, left, and Steve – have been collecting gas engines for more than 20 years.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Steve Royster’s 3- to 3-1/2 hp New Way – minus a blade on the fan, lost during the drive to Portland. Steve built the engine’s cart and battery box.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This Economy hot air pumping engine was built in 1902 by Thomas & Smith, Chicago and New York City. This one was used to pump water on a stock farm. It is owned by the Yoder family, Plain City, Ohio.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Steve Royster’s 2 hp Monitor was originally on skids; he built the cart it’s on now. “This is the only Monitor to have this small ball top,” he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A torch is used to start this 1909 15 hp Reid oil field engine owned by Kenny Hall, Ellendora, W. Va. The engine was used on pump jacks on an oil field jerk line. To start the engine, which runs on propane, a heat tube is used to heat the cylinder.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A chimney on Leroy Goodwin’s Bovaird & Seyfang engine pumps smoke rings into the trees during the show.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Paul Frasier doesn’t run his 1903 Eli engine (serial no. 1011) much. “It runs good,” he says, “but I’m trying to protect the paint on the cylinder head. Before I painted it, I ran it a lot. I worked it hard, made sure everything was right.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Bovaird & Seyfang 4 hp air-cooled engine “will sit and run all day long,” says Leroy, of Leipsic, Ohio. Two exhausts set this engine apart. “Most of these just have one,” Leroy says. “Maybe it cooled better with two.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

If you’re interested in rare and unusual engines, the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Indiana, is the place to be. The 2016 show included a breathtaking exhibit of Kansas City Lightning engines in the ATIS area (see Farm Collector, March 2017), but one-of-a-kind engines filled every corner of the grounds.

Produced for Moline Pump Co.

Paul Frasier, Carleton, Michigan, knew he had a rare engine when a friend gave him a 1903 3 hp Eli engine, but he kept his feet solidly on the ground.

“I knew the cylinder would either make or break the restoration,” he says. “If the inside was cracked, it would have to be sleeved and I’d have to put ports in, and that would have cost too much for me at that time.” As it turned out there was a lot of rust and pits, but no visible cracks.

Paul, who showed the 2-cycle Eli at the 2016 Portland show, was lucky to connect with John Davidson, Bristol, Wisconsin, owner of the oldest known Eli. Paul took measurements of parts, including an igniter, on John’s engine, and on another Eli owned by a friend, and made replacements.



The engine was produced under contract for Moline Pump Co. to be sold with that company’s pumps. Although the engine’s tag says, “made exclusively by Moline Pump Co.,” Paul says the engine was in fact designed by a man named Parker. Eli engines were produced in sizes ranging from 2-7 hp.

The engine’s tank is a clone of an original. “John Wanat made the tank, and I did the lettering,” Paul says. “I made a template and cut letters out with a blade. It was pretty painstaking work. Then I covered the tank with masking tape and used the template to cut out the letters.”